Keeping an open mind: rules based order needs to be malleable

Feb 24, 2021

As countries like China continue to integrate into the world economy, the liberal “rules-based” order – centred around political governance and the military – needs to remain flexible.

The notion of a rules-based order (RBO) has a natural appeal, as integration into the world is more a reality than a choice, including for countries like China. Integration in the economic realm, most directly through trade and investment, is dictated by world economic geography. Integration in the realm of philosophies for domestic economic and political governance is contentious, in spite of insistence from liberal visions of order that see liberal triumph as both desirable and inevitable.

The military security realm is even more complex but order can be assumed to mean peaceful coexistence between countries. All these factors make continuation of international debates and discussions about rules and order worthwhile.

Views about how the world came to be ordered the way it is today reflect vantage points in different countries. Questioning from Chinese quarters about prevalent liberal versus illiberal orders stems, in part, from incompatibility in institutional memories. China was a non-participant in international institutions from the time of the First World War to 1971, when China joined the United Nations. It is important, therefore, to agree on a common vantage point that resists hierarchical, linear and ahistorical narratives.

As such, frames like ‘Liberal RBO’, ‘Conservative RBO’ or ‘Consensus RBO’ may turn out to be unhelpful – because they are more reflective of an ideology-led pre-supposition about who (which nation) has more right to define ‘order’ and to determine what brings about disorder.

Continue reading… Courtesy of Asialink.

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